Mid-April Garden Tour

CAN YOU JOIN ME ON A BRIEF TOUR TODAY?  I certainly hope so, because I’d love to show you the work I’m accomplishing in the Rose Garden (above). I’d also like you to smell the earliest of the April flowers. Grab your coat and a hat (it’s surprisingly-nippy here) and follow me outside:

In the Rose Garden,  320 boxwoods (most of these achieved from cuttings) and 190 yews are putting out lush, new growth. I’ll wait until May to have these hedges professionally trimmed.

The roses were pruned last week. Now I’m making basins around each shrub. The basins serve as water-reservoirs. Even established roses need plentiful moisture when they are beginning to leaf out.

  Of course, roses also want food at this time. To satisfy mine, I sprinkle an organic, 4-3-2 formula around the drip-line of each shrub.

To insure weed-free beds during summer, in spring I lay a one-inch thickness of newspaper between the shrubs. Then I top the newspaper with about two inches of shredded leaves. If you hate weeding-work as much as I do, consider this newspaper mulching-routine for your own garden. It really works.

And speaking of work…the birds are busy building their nests now. That’s a  grackle (Quiscalus qusicula) on the roof above my guest-room window. A grackle with a beak full of construction material.

Let’s leave the Rose Garden for now, and head north, up the gentle path that leads to a grove of white pines. I built this staircase back in 2006, with help from my friend Herminio.  We used a hand-truck to carry the blue-stone slabs up the hill.

I suppose my garden is a testament to what determination — not money — can accomplish. In fact, all of my gardens were created on a shoe-string budget. And a very skinny shoe-string at that.

An arched opening in the pines permits a view of the headless statue beyond. (Yes, one of the urns that flank the statue is off kilter. I’m on that.)

Turning right past the statue, we come face-to-face with the Kitchen Garden. I built this “living supermarket” back in 2007. It is extremely easy to maintain.

My October-planted hardneck garlic is growing with gusto in one of the hemlock-framed beds.  If you have garlic in  your garden, be sure to feed it now.  More details in my garlic sowing and growing guide.Making a very late appearance in the Kitchen Garden is a patch of rhubarb. I say “late appearance” because in previous years, I’ve harvested the stalks in mid-April! Well, it’s been a very cold spring.

Just north of the Kitchen Garden is the Woodland Garden. Happily, the fish who dwell in a small pond there are all swimming vigorously again, after their semi-comatose winter rest. I’ll start feeding the fish when pond temperature reaches 50 degrees.  In the meantime, a smorgasbord of algae will sustain them.

Plants in the Woodland are mostly dormant now. But the Spanish bluebells, pictured above, are popping up beneath a Redbud tree…

And look — the hellebores are in bloom!

Brrr. It’s even colder now than when we started our tour.  And freezing rain is expected. Shall we head back to the house? There, a roaring fire and a glass of wine await us.

And not just any old wine, either. It’s a Sancerre from France.

Because you deserve the best.

We’re standing near the headless statue now, looking back at the house and its many rooftops. The long wing on the right is the Music Room that we are currently restoring.

Shall we make our descent via the Serpentine Garden? There, we’ll find a number of fascinating plants.

Like this Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’…

And these Russell hybrid lupines that I achieved through winter-sowing efforts. I love the plant’s elegant blue, pink, white, and yellow spires that appear in May.

Can you smell the heavenly perfume?  It’s coming from the dozens and dozens of hyacinths now in bloom in the Serpentine Garden. Pictured above is Hyacinthus ‘Blue Jacket’ in the foreground, with ‘Pink Pearl’ behind.

These white hyacinths are blooming between mounds of Phlox subulata.

Tulips are popping up everywhere. Some have pushed their way through beds of Baltic ivy…

While others have climbed through beds of Vinca minor. Pictured above is a purple, early-single variety which ought to bloom any day now. Weather permitting.

Unfazed by the cold weather are clumps of Chiondoxa. These are sprouting even where I did not plant them. Am I lucky, or what? Blue flowers send me over the moon.

Blooming beneath a crabapple tree in the Serpentine Garden is an entire forest of Puschkenia. This ‘striped squill’ may be small, but its scent is sweet and strong.

Before we head inside, please note this year’s winter-sowing project — 18 gallon-size milk and water jugs. In January, I planted these miniature greenhouses with perennial and hardy annual seeds. So far,  the coreopsis, hyssop, lettuce, spinach, bachelor buttons and Evening Primrose have sprouted.  My other winter-sown seeds — including tomatoes — will germinate when warmer weather arrives.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our little April tour.  We can kick off our shoes now, and enjoy goblets of Sancerre. It’s a great wine to sip before a fire on a chilly spring day.

And speaking of chilly — is your garden a little behind-schedule this month, too? You can let me know by leaving a comment.

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly newsletter.

Related Posts:

Late-April Garden Tour
Garden Tour, Autumn 2012
Garden Tour, January 2013
My First Garden Conservancy “Open Day”


  1. I live in England and it seems our springs are pretty similar. You have a lovely garden and have given me some tips for mine.

  2. Hi!

    I have a question for you: I love your Boxwood hedge. I have a few I bought last fall on sale meaning to take cuttings from them to propagate this spring in my garden. How many years do you need to wait until they will achieve a uniform low hedge?

  3. Hi Judith – I’m actually quite jealous of England’s (temperate) climate. Comforting to know that your spring is similar to mine!

    Hi Martha – My boxwood cuttings produced a respectable — and trim-able — hedge in only 2 years time. Plant 5-7 stems per hole, and your cuttings will resemble full plants right from the start. More details here.

  4. Hello Kevin.
    I live in northern Michigan…it’s still snowing up here. Last year my garlic was already 8-10 inches high…this year we still have 8-10 inches of snow covering the garlic. But the birds are singing spring songs so it can’t be long!

  5. Mary Ellen Hern says:

    Dear Kevin,

    I’m in Niverville, and we are behind. I have little narcissus and the tall pale yellow and gold daffodils opening on the front lawn. The stray hyacinths are blooming, but not the hyacinth garden under the cherry tree. The first hellebores have just started opening, My crocus have lasted a very long time, and continue. Last year’s new daylily garden has returned

  6. We’re in southern Indiana. In town, spring is at about the same place yours is, but we live out further and in a hollow. Our microclimate is a couple of weeks behind. No tulips yet, but our rhubarb is up. I must say that I agree with you about the scilla. That gorgeous blue!

  7. It seems spring is late here in Central Nebraska as well. My crocuses bloomed right on time and the tiny daffs have done their thing. Most of my bulbs have sprouted up but the hyacinths got buried in a deep drift of leaves over the winter and I fear they won’t survive. I didn’t realize it was such a deep pile of leaves! I uncovered them last weekend because I was concerned they hadn’t come up at all since I have others in another spot. They’re up and have huge flower heads on them but they are pale as a ghost. I guess we’ll see. I’ll feed them when I feed the others and maybe they’ll make it? We got snow last week and they’re saying there will be more snow this week. Last spring I was harvesting spinach right about now. This year, it has barely sprouted.

  8. Good morning Kevin!
    Thank you for the fun tour! Things in my neck of the woods here in the Cascade foothills in Oregon, about 30 miles east of Salem, seem to be coming to life a little bit early! We had 70+ degrees for about 3 days a few weeks ago and lots of things now seem ahead of schedule! Which worries me somewhat, but the general rule is “Don’t plant any summer veggies or annuals til after Mother’s Day” because we usually don’t get a frost after that. I’m really enjoying your website! Looking forward to seeing your gardens progress!

  9. Linda lloyd says:

    Good Sunday morning!
    I really enjoy your posts and look forward to Sunday morning when it arrives ! Beautiful gardens! I have planted peas and spinach , lettuce and kale…..in raised beds …garlic is looking wonderful and will be starting tomatoes today in mini green houses…I am most anxious to dig in the dirt!
    Keep up the good work. Love fellow Gardeners ….who else understands our passion ?
    Linda Lloyd in northwestern Pennsylvania

  10. Already so lovely! Thank you for sharing!

  11. cleo jordan says:

    Good morning Kevin,

    I am in Seattle and enjoy the same English climate I grew up with in London. I share your love of blue and have a wonderful cool summer garden full of blue white and purple. What fun looking for more. I will find some puschkenia as I do not have that!

    Thank you for the tour. My garden is a mini Arboretum [the english thing again!] and a lot of work which I love.

  12. Our spring here in Iowa is very gray, chilly, and windy this year, but when I bundle up and get out in the yard, I can see my plants still know what time of year it is. My jugs are sprouting Kale, Bunching Onions, and Foxglove! They were opened up for a very few hours of partial sunshine yesterday and I remain grateful to you for teaching me how to create them.

  13. Ugh, we still have snow on the ground up here in the mountains. The little crocuses popped their heads up last week and were greeted with 3 inches of snow topped with sleet and freezing rain. It will be weeks before we can get to serious gardening! The rule of thumb here is no planting until Memorial Day. Vicarious enjoyment of your lovely garden!

  14. Paul Marquis says:

    I live north of Montréal in the province of Québec
    here it is still snowing ( april 14th ) I have 15 different seeds in pots outside but none have germinated yet
    I never tried germinating tomato seeds that way
    yôur place looks marvelous congratulations for the good work


  15. Heather O'Shaughnessy says:

    Beautiful to see it all coming back to life I’m sure….better have a chat with the grackle about blocking up the eavestrough…lol 🙂

  16. Dear Kevin: I so enjoyed your tour! Thank you! I always learn valuable information from your posts.

  17. Hi Kevin…love your site…I live in Colonie NY and my daughter and I are planning to visit your home and gardens….glad you mentioned feeding the roses now…have over 15 bushes and need to do that…looking forward to meeting you soon. Ann

  18. We had a super early spring here on the northern CA coast. I gauge that by the fact that the tree branch I cut for our Easter egg “tree” was already full of catkins and baby leaves. Last year, with a later Easter, the branch was only just budding. Unfortunately the early spring, although lovely, was due to a dry warm Jan/Feb and part of March.

  19. Hi Kevin: I envy you your gorgeous gardens. I pored over each and every photo, lusting after the flowers, garlic, etc. Here in Clinton, BC (zone 2b-3) is is snowing! Yes, I said SNOWING. There is already two inches on the ground and more to come. This is unusual weather even for us so far north. No wonder the plants are so slow to start this year. They must have known what was coming. My garlic hasn’t broken through the ground yet and if I dig down six inches the ground is still frozen. My 20 milk jugs of winter-sown seeds sit waiting for warmer weather. The only thing I see sprouting yet is ‘Vancouver’ spinach. None of the perennial or annual flowers are doing anything yet and the tomatoes don’t dare show their greens yet. It’s a matter of ‘wait and see’. Meanwhile I am preparing for our community’s annual Elegant Dessert Party. What a lovely way to spend a cold, snowy April day! I’d invite you to join us but it would be over before you could get here. I’ll eat an extra ‘elegant’ dessert just for you!

  20. Can garlic be planted in the spring with any success at all?

  21. Good Afternoon Kevin,

    Alway nice to get your newsletter. I am going to try the boxwood this year, if I can find some.

    I was out planting peas today until it the clouds rolled in with icy rain.

    On the coast of Maine, everthing seems behind. I thought this was going to be the year with out the crocus in my yard, but today the purple flowers were dancing around my hawthrown tree. They were three weeks late, but they came.

    It has been way too cold,wet and snowy this spring. I lost the entire month of March for winter clean up from bad weather. And the rain and cold keeps me from working on the garden beds these first two weeks in April..

    There is a beautiful thyme already in bloom in my garden called cream highland creeping thyme.. When I got it last summer, it was cream color and green, but now it is bursting with rose like colors and is quite the surprise. I think I am going to cultivate more of it to liven up more parts of my garden in early spring.

    For me, spring is very late this year. I will not be able to get all the spring chores done before the May flies come out. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were late!

  22. Cristy Sheehan says:

    Enjoyed the walk, thank you for sharing! I love your yard. I have a question? Looking back at the music room from near the headless statue, are those three windows at this end of the room? Are they really there or soon to be? It is hard to tell and I know said you are restoring the room. Stay well and safe!

  23. We always have a very late spring in coastal New England, but this winter never got extremely cold so the ground didn’t freeze and, for the first time ever, my flat leaf parsley overwintered. My arugula and sugar snap peas are coming up and I’m planting kale and swiss chard seedlings this week. The daffodils have just started blooming which is my favorite part of early spring.

  24. Hi Kevin, loved your tour, I’m a bit envious, crocus and puschkenia are blooming but at 7200ft. Spring is a little later here. Spring bulbs are the most amazing things. Daffodils are about 2″ and the deer don’t eat them!

  25. Rosemeri says:

    Lovely walk, Kevin. Here in the high desert of central AZ, it is warming up but we are getting a lot of wind right now. In my garden I have garlic, leeks, and onions growing very well. My direct sow peas are about 4″ high and the spinach, lettuce, chard and carrots are poking up. I just planted my winter sown cabbage into the vegi bed this morning. Will need to keep a close eye on the weather as we can still get freezing nights. I use row covers to protect tender plants. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I still have tomatoes, peppers, fennel, and eggplant in winter sow containers and they are doing just fine.

  26. Loved the garden tour. I miss the tulips we would grow reliably in Michigan which I can’t grow well here just above the Columbia River Gorge in Washington due to the gophers snacking on them. They like so many bulbs even onions and garlics. Pouring torrential rains now but still the plum trees, magnolias, and hyacinths are in full bloom. My Rubarb is quite a bit ahead of yours. Have quite a few sprouts in my milk jugs such as hollyhocks, columbine, lupine, calendula, bachelor buttons, etc. Glad you told about that fun way of seeding. The peonies are up and am happy to see them thinking of their blooms to be. The newspaper with mulch on the raspberry garden is working very well. After weeding several times already this year in the flower beds, glad I don’t have to do much in the raspberry bed.

  27. Thank you for the lovely garden tour. I would like to ask a few questions if you don’t mind. Do you have deer browsing your lawn? Also, do your winter- sown tomato plants have enough time to fruit in your zone? I am in 6a and need to start mine inside around mid-February.

    Love your blog. It makes me smile.

  28. Your garden is beautiful! Very inspiring since you did it on a shoe string.
    Here in Pennsylvania it has been a beautiful spring we had a few very hot days but now it is back sunny in high 60s.
    I just moved in last June and am building my first real garden. I have a few lettuce and beets seeds that have already sprouted. I planted rhubarb but nothing seems to be happening….yet.
    I love your idea for the jug green houses.

    Thanks for the tour.

  29. Hi Kevin,
    thanks for the wonderful tour. Here in New Zealand’s South Island we’re halfway through autumn. We’ve had a drought this year, which has hit us (farmers and gardeners) pretty hard. I’m busy processing the harvest at the moment – just picked the last of the sweetcorn, have a lovely basket of apples on the kitchen bench, must freeze yet more scarlet runner beans today, and froze lots of little packs of zucchini yesterday (thank you, Kevin!). The hazelnuts are nearly all in and the chestnuts are falling. There’s not much colour in the garden apart from some late roses and dahlias, and a magnificent showing of nerines. Thanks for the enjoyment, tips and northern hemisphere perspective your newsletter brings.

  30. Laurene Stopford says:

    Hi Kevin, I was just recently introduced to your site and I am loving it! I live in the Tampa, FL area so gardening is a bit different here…I am constantly dodging snakes. My son grabbed a snake instead of an egg on easter! Thanks for sharing your remarkable talent and garden!

  31. Awesome gardens, and can’t wait for the Music Room Tour! I garden in W. TN (Zone 7). Our mid April temps are usually in the mid 80’s by now. but not this year! We aren’t even in the 70’s yet. VERY cold Spring and wondering how this is going to effect our vegetable gardens. (Corn is usually coming up by now!)

  32. Fun tour of your gardens!! You framed in your raised beds with hemlock, how long does the wood last before it deteriorates? I am using douglas fir–half the cost of cedar– and the oldest sides have been in 5 years with some rot to the bottoms. I keep adding compost and leaves so I need to make the sides higher, thus able to see how the wood ages as I pull out the existing sides.

  33. Beverly, zone 6 eastern PA says:

    I am overrun with maintenance tasks outside, but I wanted to take time to visit your magical patchwork of gardens. I am just a little bit a head of you with plants emerging, but still behind what the normal would be for April 14. Today I planted shell peas, patched sod, mixed soils, turned compost, pulled weeds, seeded a large APS tray with 5 kinds of tomatoes, made Rhubarb Crepes for dinner (from last year’s crop, frozen) and collapsed into this chair right here. It’s still light out, so I can’t sit long as chores are waiting. Thank goodness it’s Spring!

  34. Kevin, you know exactly how far behind my gardens are, as I am “just down the road apiece” from you! Our hellebores are blooming beautifully now, spurred on by a couple of warmer days. But little else has shown itself yet. Too chilly! Thanks for the reminder to get the roses pruned now, not later! I plan to do the provence lavender at the same time. Where did you (do you) get the Rip Van WInkle Narcissus? That is gorgeous! I want some!

  35. Yogini55 says:

    My garlic and rhubarb look about the same as yours (central Iowa). You inspired me to try the winter sowing this year. So far I have sprouts of lettuce, spinach, and arugula, but no peas, zinnias, or cosmos…. 🙁

  36. Hi Kevin, loved your tour! I’m in northern Virginia and my daffodils wilted with the 80-90 degree 3-day period we just have. But as a result of that intense heat, my dicentra, tulips and redbud are in full bloom overnight! Now we have returned to more normal spring temperatures so hopefully they will hang on a little longer than the pear and cherry blossoms did.

  37. Kevin,
    I just wanted to tell you that you inspire me! Thank you so much for your blog. I tried my first winter-sowing and all but two sprouted (so far), I’m excited to finish the process and plant them. I am hoping my garden will some day look as beautiful as your wonderful place.
    Next on my to-do-list, try some of your recipes But I’m taking it one step at a time…..baby steps.
    Thank you again.

  38. Thank you Kevin Lee for the tour. Your green thumb must be up to your arm pit. Your lovely home and gardens are a delight to visit.

  39. Mary Lou says:

    Oh such fun to see your place! Thanks for the tour!! Here in NW Oregon (East of Portland) we have daffodils, tulips and trees blooming all around. So excited about our “milk jug hot houses” lots of things are coming up now.. Glad you said your tomatoes aren’t up yet.. I was beginning to become concerned..We are waiting for some nice warm days again.. they seem to come and go this time of year.. with rain showers often! This will be the BEST gardening year ever..thanks to you!

  40. I’d love to see a top-down layout of your gardens. I’m having a hard time picturing they layout.

    Everything looks beautiful! I’m jealous of how much space you’ve got.


  41. Christina Giordano says:

    Kevin, thanks for the lovely walk in your garden – what a treat on an early spring day. I admire your dedication and your generosity in sharing your life with us – your readers. Best wishes, Christina

  42. I’ve a question.. Do you just add one years layer of newspaper & leaves on top of last years or do you ever clean it up?

    I was suggesting to my daughter to just add layers of newspapers in her little 5×5 kitchen garden and cover it with leaves and grass clippings to keep weeds from popping up since shes not really the gardening type of gal. If she could do this continually, she’d probably enjoy it a lot more. 😉 In theory, I dont know why it wouldnt work, but I’ve never done it myself with newspapers.. just grass & leaves which the Texas sun consumed like nobodies business.

  43. I know how much time and thought a blog like yours takes and the results are the wonderful information and photographs you share so generously. I will now look forward to visiting your garden again and again. THANK YOU

  44. Kevin, Thank you for another lovely tour!

  45. badger gardener says:

    Thanks for the reminder about caring for garlic. I’m going to have to review that post as I didn’t know I should feed right now. Our Spring is not quite as far along here in WI even though I’m a 5b too.

    About this time of year, as I’m itching to do something in the garden, I check out some phenology websites where people report blooming, migratory returns, all kinds of nature data, so I can get a sense of how far north Spring has crept. For instance, I know if northern Illinois starts reporting daffodils in bloom, mine cannot be far behind. With all the reports from everybody here, your site is actually much more informative than any of the phenology sites I’ve visited.

  46. Kevin,
    I just love your website!!! I am doing the milk jugs, sure hope they work.
    Im in Traverse City mi. Its still cold and snowy here. Love your receips.

  47. Barb Polski says:

    Thank you for the great tour! I started another raised bed for berries this past weekend!
    Can’t wait to put the zucchini and tomatoes in – but not til May 15 which is about the “safe” date in my area of Baltimore, MD.

  48. Thanks for the tour! I have tulips peaking out, FINALLY, and a few snow krokuses! About time! 🙂

  49. Scott Trudell says:

    Hey Kevin…
    I was reading your past post on taking boxwood cuttings. I never realized it was as easy as this. I have always wanted to have an edging of lush boxwood but, like you, found the price prohibitive(even with my discount at the greenhouse!). I do have a couple boxwood plants in my shrub border that have been there for three years… And need to be pruned this spring. I’m sure you can guess what I’m going to be doing with the clippings?? Wish me luck!


  50. Hi Kevin,
    Your website is so interesting and informative. Thank-you for sharing!! Your tour gave me spring
    fever.I live in the mid-west, Sioux Falls ,South Dakota, yes probably unheard of. The weather
    although spring, has been filled with the worst ice storm in our history.Now we are expecting
    another winter storm with 6-8 in. of snow, with 20 degree temps.
    Once the weather does warm up I will be looking to plan my garden planting.I will continue
    to visit your gardens, your have many helpful ideas, Thanks !!

  51. Henrietta says:

    My calendula has spouted and blanket flowers cauliflowers and red Russian kale are also up. I too love hyacinths I have dark purple, pink and a cream color ones the cream color hyacinth from Old House Over the years my hyacinths have increased from division and also my daffodils Now I give daffodils away to various friends and neighbor plus I have bouquets of themin my own home.
    thanks for reminded about fertizing garlic I shall do that after I get off line and before the rains come

  52. Elizabeth says:

    Lovely, Kevin. I know you are very proud.

  53. Here in central MN, we’ve gone from winter smack into late May. Temps . the last couple days has been in the mid 60’s to mid 70’s. We had 11″ of snow fall 10 days ago! We had the snowiest April on record = 24.4″ of snow. I’ve been cleaning out my perennial beds the last few days. Tulips and daffodils are coming up, I’ve a few crocuses blooming. I still have a couple piles of snow/ice on the north side of the house.

  54. Marilou says:

    Yes, I was a little behind in getting the garden started; but finally did get started. Of course I have not received my tomatoes, peppers or sweet potato plants as yet. Radishes are up. Got red and green cabbages doing well. Finally got my lettuce, beets and carrots in. The rain held me up for awhile. I also planted some marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias. I have irises that are almost ready to bloom. Looking forward to that. My efforts are small compared to yours; but I enjoy the small space I have. Sometimes the work almost overwhelms me. I could never have gardened when I was still working as a nurse. Too many hours at work and too many hours on the road. Now I am retired and it is catch up time for all I did not do during my working years. Like you I am on a very tiny shoestring budget. Oh, yes “Thank you for the wine!” ;-D <3

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